Email Spam, Why is My Ip or Domain Blacklisted & How to stay safe

Have you asked yourself what is spam, how it happens, why you get Blacklisted and its Implications?

Email spam, also known as junk email or unsolicited bulk email (UBE), is a subset of electronic spam involving nearly identical messages sent to numerous recipients by email. The messages may contain disguised links that appear to be for familiar websites but in fact lead to phishing web sites or sites that are hosting malware. Spam email may also include malware as scripts or other executable file attachments. 

How Spamming Happens

You can end up with email marked as spam for many different reasons, usually involving reputation - and not only yours.

"Each time I send emails there are some recipients that eventually find my emails in their junk folders or spam foldeer. We have tried to remedy this but even their IT departments are flummoxed. I (and they) just want to know why my emails do this despite their best endeavours to remedy it."

Let’s look at some of the factors that may contribute to your email being flagged as spam.

Reputation

Spam-filtering technology has advanced in many different ways. Rather than focusing solely on the contents of each specific email message, filters now keep track of and factor in the past behavior of an email account.

Reputation is primarily based on people identifying spam and marking it as such when they see it. This data is collected and analysed in several different ways.

And naturally, a bad reputation can result in email marked as spam.

Your reputation

Your email address – the “email@domain.com” part of your email message – may have a reputation, and that reputation may be good or bad.

As I said, it’s based in part on how many emails have been sent from that email address that have been identified as spam. If there’ve been a lot, then your reputation is poor, and more of your email will be automatically flagged as spam in the future.

Given that spammers regularly “spoof” the From: line of the emails that they send, it might not even be your doing. Hopefully, most spam filters account for this and don’t factor those messages in when they can identify them, or don’t factor in email-address-based reputation at all. Unfortunately, as we’ll see later, all spam filters are not created equal.

If others have ever blocked you, for example, then this data may feed into your email address’s reputation.

Your reputation with a specific recipient

Many spam filters analyze spam at both a global level – identifying messages that would be considered spam by anyone – and at the individual level.

If you have one individual that regularly marks your email as spam, for example, then your messages to that individual are more likely to be automatically marked as spam in the future. This may, or may not, impact your messages to others, depending on how the spam filter factors it all in.

The net result is that email you send to one person may be much more likely to be marked as spam than the exact same message sent to someone else, simply because your reputation with the first person is poorer.

Your email provider’s reputation

Your email provider carries a reputation as well.

Email providers that are known to be regular sources of spam, or are known to have lax security (allowing accounts to be easily hijacked) may have a poor or negative reputation. That means that email sent from any email address using that provider stands a slightly higher chance of being flagged as spam.

It’s a form of guilt by association.

The most obvious examples are free email accounts, which by their nature let anyone create an account, including spammers. Hotmail, specifically, was a source of much spam for many, many years, and its reputation still suffers today.

Your email server’s reputation

This is a little more obscure, and to understand it we need to review the path that email takes on it way to your recipient.

  • The message is sent by your computer to your email provider. (Skip this step when using web mail.)
  • The message is sent by your email provider to an email server, with instructions of where the message is to go.
  • Next it may be sent to one or more intermediary servers, each with instructions to forward the message on to its intended destination.
  • The last server in that chain (potentially just your email provider’s server, if no intermediaries were needed) delivers the email to your recipient’s email server.

The last server in that chain – the server that finally delivers the mail to your recipient’s email provider – has a reputation as well. Typically identified by IP address, that server may even be on black lists, the ultimate in poor reputation.

What this means is that the ability of a message to make it through also depends on the path it happens to take on its way from your email service to that of the recipient.

The reputation of the content of your email

Naturally, the content of your email is not ignored. The words and phrases you use are part of the complex spam detection equation – but perhaps not in the way that you might think.

Without a doubt, certain words qualify. Anything from some types of medications to body enhancement options to promised cash from a Nigerian prince are almost certainly used to identify spam.

But spam filters are also looking for anything common across email messages that many people mark as spam. For example, if the phrase “make money fast” is present in many messages that a lot of people mark as spam, it garners a bad reputation. Its presence in your message may be a strike against you.

By itself, using a word or phrase that many people also see in emails they mark as spam is probably not enough to doom your message to the spam bucket. In conjunction with other things, however, it could contribute to it.

 Sending one mail and copying several receipients also automatically marks your mail as spam

Impications of spamming

  • Your Ip address or domain gets Blacklisted & even blocked
  • Emails bouncing and failling to be delivered to the receipient
  • Loss of Internet performance and bandwidth
  • Identity Theft
  • Increase in Worms and Trojan Horses
  • Spam can crash mail servers and fill up hard drives
  • Critical email messages are missed and/or delayed.
  • Permanent Ip and domain Blacklisting

Getting off the list

Once you are listed you will need fix afew thing before you get the list. Here at AfriQ Networks we have a dedicated team that will help you on cleaning and gaining your reputation back in a simple and straight forward manner. Kindly contact our customer service on +254 701 628 179.

Tips to keep your emails from getting blacklisted

1. Don’t send email from a server that is used by spammers.

If you have the bad luck of being on the same server as a spammer and the server has been blacklisted, you too will be blacklisted… you're guilty by association. Aside from changing your website hosting and crossing your fingers, there is not too much you can do about this. You can use www.whatismyip.com to see other domains listed on the same server as yours, and use MX Toolbox (I talk about it more below) to see if you've been blacklisted.

2. Don’t create email that encourages people to hit the spam button.

Clearly, you are not a spammer. But if you send poorly designed and badly written emails, you will start getting spam complaints and end up on blacklists.

There are many email marketing best practices to keep you from getting lots of spam complaints, but two obvious ones are not using clever “bait-and-switch” subject lines or known spammy words that will trigger the spam alert.

Also, you can greatly reduce your chance of getting marked as spam by personalizing your emails and reminding the recipients of how they know you and why you’re getting in touch.

3. Don’t send bulk email right out of your mail client.

One very quick way to get blacklisted it to try to send out business quantities of email from a personal address – a classic red flag. Use an email service like Mail Chimp, Constant Contact or iContact, or best of all, closed-loop marketing software like HubSpot.

These companies register themselves with blacklisting companies and get “pre-approval” for the large amounts of email going out. Of course, these services have requirements for YOU. You will need to maintain low percentages of spam complaints, because your spam complaints are also their spam complaints, and could lead to the blacklisting of their servers.

4. Use a dedicated email address.

One classic spam trick is to have a legitimate-looking email address that forwards to a spammer’s personal email. This is one way they appear credible and lure the unsuspecting person in.

But many real businesses choose to forward emails for other reasons. For example, say your work email (info@work.com) forwards to your personal email (you@gmail.com). If info@work.com is spammed, those spam messages will be forwarded on to Gmail. Gmail may assume that work.com is the source of spam, and blacklist the @work account, the work.com domain, or even your IP address.

The spammer lives to spam another day, and you are left to try to clean up the mess.



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